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Left-handed people have one advantage over right-handed counterparts, study finds
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Approximately 10% of the population is left-handed, and the balance between lefties and righties has been the same for almost 5,000 years. People used to believe that left-handed people were evil or unlucky. The word "sinister" is even derived from the Latin word for "left."

In modern times, the bias against lefties for being different is more benign – spiral notebooks are a torture device, and ink gets on their hands like a scarlet letter. Now, a new study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in Brain is giving left-handers some good news. While left-handers have been struggling with tools meant for right-handers all these years, it turns out, they actually possess superior verbal skills.

Researchers looked at the DNA of 400,000 people in the U.K. from a volunteer bank. Of those 400,000 people, 38,332 were southpaws. Scientists were able to find the differences in genes between lefties and righties, and that these genetic variants resulted in a difference in brain structure, too. "It tells us for the first time that handedness has a genetic component," Gwenaëlle Douaud, joint senior author of the study and a fellow at Oxford's Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, told the BBC.


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Scientists then studied brain images from 10,000 people and found right-handed and left-handed people had differences in the parts of the brain associated with language. In left-handed people, "the left and right sides of the brain communicate in a more coordinated way," Douaud told CNN. The differences suggest that left-handers have better verbal skills than righties. It almost makes up for constantly bumping elbows with the person next to you at the dinner table.

"This raises the intriguing possibility for future research that left-handers might have an advantage when it comes to performing verbal tasks, but it must be remembered that these differences were only seen as averages over very large numbers of people and not all left-handers will be similar," Akira Wiberg, a Medical Research Council fellow at the University of Oxford who worked on the study, said in a release.

While the findings are fascinating, they're only just the beginning. Scientists need to do further studies to really dig into their meaning. "We need to assess whether this higher coordination of the language areas between left and right side of the brain in the left-handers actually gives them an advantage at verbal ability. For this, we need to do a study that also has in-depth and detailed verbal-ability testing," Douaud told CNN.

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Other studies have found that your dominant hand is 25% determined by genetics, and 75% determined by environmental factors, which should come as a relief to anyone who doesn't like feeling they're at the mercy of their genes.

So if you're left-handed, you're probably going to be a great conversationalist, but you're still going to end up with ink smudges on your hand if you want to write down your words.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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